A group of Australian women were pulled off flights in Qatar earlier this month and subjected to an “invasive” internal examination after an allegedly abandoned baby was found in an airport bathroom.
Women on board a Qatar Airways flight bound for Sydney, including 13 Australians, were detained and forced to undergo an “invasive” genital examination at Hamad International Airport in Doha on October 2.
Earlier, airport staff discovered an allegedly abandoned premature newborn in one of the terminal’s bathrooms.
It was initially reported the baby had died, but airport officials have since said the baby was safe and being cared for by medical and social workers.
The women were allegedly not told about the infant during the strip searches, which were conducted in an ambulance on the tarmac, 7News reported.
“Medical professionals expressed concern to officials about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing HIA,” a Hamad International Airport spokesperson said.
"Individuals who had access to a specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query," airport management told the ABC.
A federal government spokesperson said the treatment of the women was offensive, grossly inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which they could give free and informed consent.
"The Australian government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport," the spokesperson said on Monday.
"The government has formally registered our serious concerns about this incident with Qatari authorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is engaged on this matter through diplomatic channels."
Federal opposition frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon said the government should be robust in its response.
"If true, this effectively amounts to state-sanctioned sexual assault and we should all be very, very concerned," he told the Seven Network.
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said it was outrageous and completely unacceptable the women were subjected to such humiliating examinations.
Yahoo News Australia has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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